Sudden exercise can prove fatal to the sedentary, studies show

December 02, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

Sedentary people who occasionally undertake strenuous activity have a greatly increased risk of having a heart attack during exertion, according to two studies, published in today's New England Journal of Medicine.

The findings confirm a long-held belief that sudden vigorous exercise can be fatal for couch potatoes. And they appear to support the advice that inactive people consult with doctors before starting any activity.

In one study by U.S. researchers, the risk of having a heart attack among sedentary people was more than 107 times greater during heavy exercise than during lighter activity or none. In the other study, conducted in Germany, the risk was seven times greater.

Both studies found people who exercise regularly had a much lower risk than non-exercisers of having a heart attack during exertion.

"Although regular exercise has important health benefits over the long term, sudden, vigorous exertion by people who are unaccustomed to it can sometimes end in tragedy," said Dr. Gregory D. Curfman in an editorial accompanying the studies.

The studies refer to the temporary risk period consisting of the time spent exercising and the hour after -- a period that is thought to be associated with 75,000 heart attacks in the United States each year, resulting in 25,000 deaths.

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